Tech Talk: How to Improve Your Efficiency, Productivity

Did everyone have a chance to read the Operations & Opportunities Report (ORR) in SSI‘s “Bright Ideas” (August 2010) issue? If not, I suggest you go back and take a close look or look it up. There is an interesting pattern that is emerging in the data. The common theme is a lack of technical efficiency and productivity. Many of these areas were hardly on the radar in recent years and now take an impressive lead in many categories.

Let’s face it, operations of all sorts are running on “lean and mean.” We have seen it with police and fire authorities having less manpower and not having the luxury of tolerating dispatches for false alarms. In our industry, the market is more competitive, and time spent on installations and service calls are under the constant challenge of being more efficient.

I have always been impressed when observing the work of a true trade professional. When assigned a service or installation task, the professional technician will know exactly what to do, whom to contact, what tools and other resources are needed, and approximately how long it will take.

Unfortunately, the work habits and skills of many technicians are formed by a combination of trial and error. Or if they are lucky, they learn from another slightly more senior tech who has also learned through trial and error. Management, faced with scheduling and quality assurance challenges, often set these assignments based on the technician’s feedback and skill level. This can result in many shortcomings.

Do you have any metrics on the average time to install a panel or make an alarm sensor drop? How about installing a card access reader or a CCTV camera? Don’t forget service calls as well. Without a good set of benchmarks, it is difficult to tell if you are truly becoming more or less efficient in your operations.

Fortunately, there are some tools and resources for helping management establish a good set of service and installation benchmarks.

Some Basic Field Performance Tips

There are organizations such as the Technology Services Industry Association or TSIA, which has in its ranks thousands of service executives, managers and professionals, ready to provide guidance in this area. Presently, TSIA has an ambitious field service benchmark survey project that was launched in July. It may be something for you to check out.

Some key service performance metrics suggested by TSIA are as follows:

Gross calls — Do you get a full day’s work and five quality calls a day? A quality call is defined as the tech performing a documented total call process on each system that is designed to fix or improve system reliability.

Incompletes — Parts holds are the primary reason for incompletes in the field. This is directly related to the effectiveness of your tech’s car stock. Many dealers let the techs decide what parts they need to carry in order to support their territory. This is a major mistake. You want input from your techs in the field. You need a strategic and defined process in place to develop car stocks that allow techs to have parts they need to fix 95 percent of the systems serviced.

Call backs — When you are not achieving benchmarks in this area, the primary cause is your techs not performing a defined minimum work process on each call.

Accountable time — Defined as customer time as well as travel time (from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.), and often overlooked by service management. Underperforming in this area creates high salary cost and a major loss of productivity in the field. The mindset you need in service is if a tech is not in front of a customer they are losing you money.  Minimizing your techs’ unproductive time throughout the day is critical if you are serious about driving your profitability in service. Look for technology tools to help your service management stay on top of this area.

Inspections Can Be Profitable, Easy

Fire system inspections and deficiency reporting can be a valuable recurring monthly revenue (RMR) service area. One tool that can help to make it profitable and efficient is the inspection software from Boulder, Colo.-based Asurio Inc., which has been in business more than 20 years.

With the company’s portable system applications and automated import utilities, the time-consuming data entry of panel information can be reduced from eight hours to eight minutes (see photo). Three of the top five fire and life-safety inspections companies in North America presently rely on the Asurio offering.

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About the Author


Bob is currently a Security Sales & Integration "Tech Talk" columnist and a contributing technical writer. Bob installed his first DIY home intercom system at the age of 13, and formally started his technology career as a Navy communication electronics technician during the Vietnam War. He then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering and went on to complete a Security Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Since 1976, Bob has served in a variety of technical, training and project management positions with organizations such ADT, Rollins, National Guardian, Lockheed Martin, American Alarm Supply, Sonitrol and Ingersoll Rand. Early in his career, Bob started and operated his own alarm dealership. He has also served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and on Security Industry Association (SIA) standards committees. Bob also provides media and training consulting to the security industry.

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